Monday, December 17, 2012

Lockwood Peak and San Guillermo Mountain, 12/16/12

I took off for Frazier Park early Sunday morning under ominous skies. The radio kept telling me that I was going to get rained on and possibly snowed on. Whatever. I was gunning for a couple peaks that I hadn't visited, Lockwood and San Guillermo. These two minor peaks decorate the northern rim of Grade Valley and happen to be listed as Sierra Club HPS peaks. I knew Grade Valley Rd would be closed for the winter and that closure adds at least four miles to what would be the standard approach. This hike, as described, ran 17 miles and took me 7.5 hours.

It was 34 degrees when I started walking. A damp fog clung to the ground and the road was wet with mud and snow. I trudged through an eerie silence. After about 2.5 miles I reached the first turn of the day and turned left on the Piano Box trail. I followed this for a little less than a mile before continuing east on the Yellow Jacket motorcycle trail (which is a way fun ride if you've got a bike).

Low clouds over Lockwood Valley.

These colorful trees mark the start of the Yellow Jacket trail.

I followed the twisting and bumpy motorcycle trail through forest and meadow. I eventually arrived under the north side of Lockwood Peak. The way to the summit ascends a deep ravine or gully. There isn't much in the way of signage to tell you it's time to find a way into the ravine. I found a single small trail duck which was mostly buried in snow and no obvious path into the gully was visible. I started cross-country through ankle deep snow, hoping to come across a trail. At the mouth of the ravine I encountered a decent trail that ascended the gully, sticking mostly to the right hand side of the drainage.
Yellow Jacket Motorcycle Trail.
This view is your cue to start up the north gully of Lockwood Peak. Note the highly visible trail duck and path.
Ravine, route to Lockwood summit.

Yaktrax, cable chains for your feet. Indispensible in snow.


I wasn't all that impressed by this gully ascending Lockwood. Sure, it was steep, but it only took me about 20 minutes to climb the thing. At the top of the ravine is a saddle and hooking left from there leads quickly to the summit, which is just a scorched and bald nob with great views of Mt Pinos, Frazier Peak, and Alamo Mountain. I signed the book and got on my way.

I made quick work of the descent from Lockwood and headed back west on the Yellow Jacket. Back on the Piano Box trail I took the southern branch of the loop and continued slogging westward through more forest, mud and snow. Back on Grade Valley Rd I took a left (south) and in a tenth of a mile I turned right onto the road that heads to Pine Camp and the start of San Guillermo. I banged out this stretch to the campground and started fishing around the edges of the camp, encountering many trails leading off into the woods. The trick here is to identify a path that heads in the same direction you want to go. There are many options and I found the path to the summit with a little bit of luck and common sense. The take-off for San Guillermo Peak isn't very obvious.

San Guillermo is the tougher of the two peaks on the day's agenda. This route climbs a steep ridge in a series of five "steps". By the time the hiker is atop the third step the summit is just up and right. The higher portions of the summit ridge burned in the Day Fire and the path through the burn areas is subjective, but the overall way to the summit is pretty easily identified. This is a steep little climb, short and sweet. The summit is another charred nob, the only ornamentation is the red coffee can register we all know so well. The view from this summit is pretty neat and takes in everything from the Lockwood badlands to San Rafeal Peak. The view of Mt Pinos is pretty unique.

The summit of San Guillermo Mountain.

San Guillermo Mtn Summit
San Guillermo Summit Ridge

All in all I felt that these two peaks made a decent day hike, and most of the miles were accumulated on nice trails, which keeps this day in my "easy" category. I enjoyed being out in the woods and having the whole park to myself. It was a great day for animal tracks given the mud and snow. I had a fun run out there.

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